CSLB Monterey Undercover Sting Operation Highlights Risks of Hiring Unlicensed Contractors
Nineteen cited for illegal contracting, and one arrested for drugs
SACRAMENTO - When the Contractor's State License Board (CSLB) plans an undercover sting operation targeting unlicensed contractors, it's not uncommon for investigators to find people who are violating other laws. Of the suspects cited for contracting illegally by CSLB investigators in Monterey County; one will face an additional misdemeanor for possession of cocaine.
On June 14-15, 2017, investigators from CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected unlicensed contractors to place bids on home improvement projects at a single family home near the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Investigators received bids of up to $13,000, for fencing, painting, tree trimming, roofing, electrical, and plumbing jobs, well over the legal threshold for performing work without a contractor's license. State law requires a CSLB-issued license for all contracting work that costs $500 or more in combined labor and materials.
All nineteen suspects caught in the two-day sting were issued citations for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section (§) 7028). Penalties for first-time convictions include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. CSLB urges homeowners to protect themselves by always checking the license license first before inviting a contractor into their home.
Eighteen of the suspects received an additional misdemeanor citation for illegal advertising (BPC §7027.1). State law requires unlicensed contractors to state in all advertising that they are not licensed, and to only advertise for jobs that total less than $500.
In addition, the Monterey County District Attorney's Offices Office and Monterey Police Department, who partnered with SWIFT during this investigation, took Roberto Carlos Argueta into custody for admitting to cocaine possession. Argueta also received citations from CSLB investigators for contracting without a license, excessive down payment (BPC §7159.5(a)(3)), and not having workers' compensation insurance (Labor Code section 3700.5). The law limits down payments to 10% of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. A second suspect also received a citation for violating workers' compensation requirements. All contractors with employees must have workers' compensation policy, offering protection should a worker be hurt on the job.
"Consumers who hire and allow unlicensed workers into their homes or businesses take unnecessary personal and financial risks," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "In addition to passing trade and law exams, state-licensed contractors are required to pass a criminal background check. There are also protections in-place should something go wrong."
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates almost 290,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2015-16, CSLB helped recover about $41 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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